Apple's new ultrathin MacBook Pro with Retina display laptop meets the "gold" standard for electronics products under the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, better known as EPEAT, the organization behind the standard recently announced. But critics are crying foul, saying the laptop has not been designed for sustainability.
The EPEAT standard, which is managed by the Green Electronics Council, evaluates computer equipment on a set of required and optional criteria such as the use of environmentally sensitive materials, energy use, and packaging. Under the standard, products can be placed in one of three categories: EPEAT Bronze, for products that meet all 23 required criteria; Silver, for products that also meet at least 50% of the 28 optional EPEAT criteria; and Gold, for products that meet at least 75% of the optional criteria.
Apple pulled its products from the EPEAT certification process back in July, but switched course and returned to EPEAT about a week later. Many corporations and government agencies have buying programs in place that require them to purchase products that have been EPEAT certified.
Last week, EPEAT released the certifications of five new ultra-thin laptops, including devices from Apple, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba. In a press release, EPEAT said it "confirms that all products tested met rigorous environmental criteria." The Apple MacBook Pro met the EPEAT Gold standard.
Critics don't necessarily agree with the assessment. As TechCrunch points out, the laptops may only have qualified because EPEAT recently published a clarification of its standard that changes the definition of what devices are "upgradeable with commonly available tools."
One man who knows about fixing electronics with everyday tools is Kyle Wiens, co-founder and CEO of the website iFixit, which advocates for repairable electronics and offers lessons on how anybody can fix their devices at home. Writing for Wired, Wiens called the new MacBook Pro "the least repairable, least recyclable computer I have encountered in a decade of disassembling electronics." Of the many examples Wiens cites, he says iFixi engineers spent more than an hour removing the MacBook Pro's glued-in battery, something EPEAT says they accomplished in less than two minutes. He says the EPEAT standards have been "watered down" and "gutted" by industry insiders and is calling for consumers to stand up for their rights to repair their own devices.
Greenpeace, which regularly publishes its Guide to Greener Electronics, has also criticized the MacBook Pro's Gold rating. Greenpeace IT analyst Casey Harrell says the adjustment of previous standards will lead to "less recycling and more e-waste." Harrell told Business Green that "electronics need to be designed so that people can upgrade and repair them as easily as possible. If companies can't make products that can be easily fixed, they shouldn't be sold."
EPEAT and Apple have not publicly responded to the criticisms.
In related news, Apple is rumored to be poised to announce the highly anticipated 7.85-inch iPad Mini later this month. (That may or may not be the device's final name.) Industry insiders say Apple may also announce a MacBook Pro with a 13-inch Retina display around the same time.
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